Thursday, December 8, 2022

    WCC Assembly set to adopt declaration only once mentioning Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine

    At the Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which is currently being held in Karlsruhe, Germany, the delegates are planning to adopt a declaration entitled “War in Ukraine, Peace and Justice in the European Region.”

    The Spiritual Front of Ukraine saw a draft document in which Russian aggression against Ukraine is mentioned only once. The draft also appreciates the work of Russian churches in relation to Ukrainian “refugees,” who are known to be tortured in Russia.

    The SFU is posting parts of the document that are related to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

    “As we meet in Karlsruhe, tragically, we are witnessing a war afflicting Europe. The thoughts and prayers of all participants in the 11th Assembly of the WCC are focused on the people and country of Ukraine, and the tragic consequences they have and are suffering since the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022, in addition to the thousands of casualties including many civilians in the East of the country and hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people since 2014.

    During this six month period, there have been over 13,000 Ukrainian civilian casualties and cities such as Mariupol have been laid in ruins. At this moment close to 14 million people – almost one-third of the entire population of Ukraine – have been forced to flee their homes (according to UNHCR). Moreover, there are many reports of atrocities that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual and gender-based violence, as well as greatly heightened vulnerability to human trafficking. In addition, we are very concerned about the risks of catastrophic consequences resulting from damage caused to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant by military activities in its vicinity – as well as containment security at the site of the Chornobyl disaster of 1986.

    At its meeting in June 2022, the WCC central committee deplored the war as “illegal and unjustifiable”, lamenting the awful and continuing toll of deaths, destruction and displacement, of destroyed relationships and ever more deeply entrenched antagonism between the people of the region, of escalating confrontation globally, of increased famine risk in food insecure regions of the world, of economic hardship and heightened social and political instability in many countries.

    This Assembly strongly affirms the position expressed by the central committee, and denounces this illegal and unjustifiable war. As Christians from different parts of the world we renew the call for an immediate ceasefire to halt the death and destruction, and for dialogue and negotiations to secure a sustainable peace.

    We appeal to all sides in the conflict to respect the principles of international humanitarian law, including especially with regard to the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and for the humane treatment of prisoners of war.

    We also strongly affirm the central committee’s declaration that war is incompatible with God’s very nature and will for humanity and against our fundamental Christian and ecumenical principles, and accordingly reject any misuse of religious language and authority to justify armed aggression and hatred.

    We urge all parties to withdraw and refrain from military action in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and other such locations that may risk unimaginable threats to current and future generations. We join in praying for all the victims of this tragic conflict, in Ukraine, in the region and throughout the world, that their suffering may cease and that they may be consoled and restored to lives of safety and dignity, and we assure them of the love and accompaniment of the WCC global fellowship of churches. We commend the local churches, specialized ministries and all humanitarian organizations that are supporting the suffering people in all parts of Ukraine and beyond, and who are receiving and caring for refugees in full respect for their God-given human dignity fleeing from the war.

    As the central committee meeting in June observed, the WCC has a critical role to play in accompanying its member churches in the region and as a platform and safe space for encounter and dialogue in order to address the many pressing issues for the world and for the ecumenical movement arising from this conflict.

    We underline the calling and obligation of WCC members to seek unity and together serve the world.

    The presence of church representatives from Ukraine and Russia, together with delegates and participants from WCC member churches and ecumenical partners from elsewhere in Europe and from all regions of the world, has served both as a practical opportunity for that encounter and a result-oriented dialogue for change. We commit ourselves to an intensified dialogue on the issues that divide us – a core purpose of the WCC. For the issues raised by this conflict are indeed deep and fundamental, both for the ecumenical movement and for the wider world, and warrant intensive and sustained dialogue to address.

    In the meantime, we reiterate the central committee’s appeal to our Christian brothers and sisters and to the leadership of the churches in Russia as well as in Ukraine, to raise their voices to oppose the continuing deaths, destruction, displacement and dispossession of the people of Ukraine. We call on WCC to provide a platform for all voices for peace to be heard and amplified and we pray that this war will come to an end very soon.

    The task of post-war recovery will be arduous and lengthy, with huge humanitarian, financial and ecological costs. Churches are called to play a key role in the healing of memories, reconciliation and diaconal care.

    We recognize that in war there are no ‘winners’, and that no one should ever resort to war.

    In response to increased militarisation, confrontation and weapons proliferation, we call for a much greater investment by the governments of Europe and the entire international community in searching for and promoting peace, rather than in escalating confrontation and division. We call upon the WCC, together with its member churches, to continue its approach of clarity and dialogue, we encourage round tables and other formats which can contribute to finding solutions to the conflict and its repercussions. We commit ourselves to uphold our responsibility to hold one another accountable for maintaining the bond of unity in Christ.

    War in Ukraine

    One of the many tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine is the greatly intensified militarization, confrontation and division on the continent of Europe, with an enormous and largely uncontrolled proliferation of weapons in the region, and a renewed and escalating threat of nuclear conflict which would cause a catastrophe of appalling and likely global magnitude. A new dividing line is being drawn across the continent, bristling with arms on either side. The history of the Cold War period gives us a clear picture of what may follow, and the risks it will entail.

    There is a danger that the invasion of Ukraine could lead to other cases of larger countries seeking to conquer smaller neighbours on the pretext of national interests. Given the inevitable human cost, war must be avoided and churches have a key role in advocating for this. Despite past failures, multilateral diplomacy – especially through the United Nations at the global level – retains a vitally important role in preserving peace.

    Meanwhile, increased government spending on defence inevitably means that there is less money available to spend on poverty alleviation, social protection, health, education, climate action and sustainable development. Inevitably, the poorest will be most affected. Whilst warfare is directly destructive, the social and economic consequences of militarisation cannot be overlooked.

    Since the invasion of Ukraine more than seven million people fleeing the fighting crossed EU borders, with more than one million people in a single week. Many of them have been generously welcomed by volunteers, civil society, churches and governments across Europe and beyond. This hospitality deserves our appreciation and praise. However, this work of solidarity is put in question in some European countries, where refugees fleeing Ukraine of African, Asian, Middle Eastern and Roma origin have experienced discrimination. This happens at border crossings where access to transportation is often denied, at refugee facilities and camps both by state officials and aid organizations. International protection should be based on need – independent of origin, religion, ethnicity, or orientation of the persons concerned – as is laid down in international and EU legislation. The welcome received by European refugees from Ukraine is reflective of Europe’s broader approach to migration. The double standards are striking.

    Russia has also received large numbers of refugees from Ukraine. We are aware of reports of Ukrainian refugees in Russia who have experienced dehumanizing and degrading treatment of interrogation, tortures and loyalty tests at the filtration camps. This warrants further examination by the ecumenical movement. We appreciate the work that churches, religious organizations and volunteers in Russia are doing in support of the refugees from Ukraine.